Every pet (and person's) spine consists of many bones (vertebrae), each separated by a layer of cartilage (discs) to provide cushioning and allow flexibility.
Back pain often involves irritation or damage to those discs. One severe cause of back pain is Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). IVDD occurs when the disc pops up out of the joint space, pushing on the spinal cord, resulting in strong pain and potentially affecting feeling in the body and legs.
Diagnosis of back problems is often made using a combination of physical examination by your veterinarian and diagnostic imaging such as x-ray, CT scan or MRI.
Signs of IVDD.
At Home Care
Recovery and Prevention
Common symptoms of back pain include:
- Reluctance to move, walk or jump
- Pain when someone touches the back
- Tense muscles and a hunched appearance
- Weakness or even paralysis of the legs
- Anxious behaviour
- Inability to sleep or get comfortable
- Not eating or drinking normally, reluctance to go to the toilet
Medical treatment will oftem involve anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation in the spinal cord, and pain relieft to help with the discomfort.
Back problems can become more severe, especially if a patient doesn't take it easy, so strict rest is essential. Be very careful picking up or moving a patient with back pain, as movement that causes the spine to bend can potentially be very uncomfortable.
Supplements such as glucosamine are also very important to provide the nutrients to help repair damaged discs.
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can also be useful in many cases, as an addition to standard treatments.
Lastly, nursing care may be needed, especially if your pet is not able to go to the toilet by themselves.
Creature Comforts can help provide housecall vet and nursing care to help for pets with back problems. For more information please see here.
As mentioned in the treatment section, back problems can become more severe, especially if a patient doesn't take it easy, so strict rest is essential.
Be very careful picking up or moving a patient with back pain, as movement that causes the spine to bend can potentially be very uncomfortable.
Provide a soft, clean bed in a safe place. A padded mattress such as Animalkind's Orthopaedic Bed is an excellent choice to encourage blood flow, healing and prevent pressure sores.
Pets with back problems may also find it difficult or painful to squat to go to the toilet, and in some cases may need a helping hand or a sling (use a towel) under the belly to help hold them up.
It's also vital to ensure your pet can reach their water and food, especially if they have neck problems or are unable to move by themselves.
Perform gentle physiotherapy on their limbs, such as gently move the hips in a circular motion twice daily, and for pets with longer term walking issues, consider a Help-em-Up Harness and grippy flooring such as rubber mats.
Full recovery can take time, and it's important to realise that a pet who has had back problems before is more likely to have issues again.
The best tips to prevent future back problems include:
- Continuing with a back & joint supplement such as Vetri disc for the long term
- Maintaining a healthy bodyweight
- Using a harness rather than a neck collar to help distribute any pulling and jarring from a leash
- Using mobility aids such as doggy boots or Help-em-up harnesses as needed
- Keeping up regular, gentle exercise to maintain muscle strength
- Avoiding excessive jumping